Showing posts from January, 2009

Privacy rights restored (temporarily)

Speaking of Youtube, there has been an interesting little privacy wrangle with the White House webpage in the past week or so, as the Obama administration sought to exempt youtube from the rule providing for secure privacy in citizens using the official webpage. Youtube of course places tracking cookies on all users, and this is true for webpages in which youtube videos are embedded. (no word yet on the ability of youtube to watch you while you watch, but far off can that be really?). But such tracking is not compatible with federal law. For a brief time, the Obama administration gave a free pass to youtube to violate the law and invade your privacy. Now, as bloggers raised concerns and awareness, Obama has backed off.

The details of this can be found on the great privacy issue blog on CNET which is worth your time: Surveillance State
Nunal seems to be all about youtube of late, but it is pure happenstance, I assure you.

Mark Campbell, who gives a presentation of old time fiddle styles each year at VWC during the Winter Session, has just posted a portion of his presentation. He plays "Jimmie Johnson" and then he and I play "John Brown's Dream."

The other videos he has loaded are worth a look too (like his tips on Lundy's "Julie Ann Johnson" and the "Rowe's Division" with the savant kid fiddler)
This is the kind of resource that is at once a cool use of the technology and also completely and utterly bonkers: online backup guitar tracks for fiddlers from the California State Old Time Fiddlers Association.

thoughts a week in

The first week of a presidency doesn't signal a whole lot, but the signals are good. Surely we can be grateful that the listing ship of state is at least throwing the worst abuses off the side to lighten our journey and being us back into alignment with laws we invented.

{that metaphor could have been worse}

For the President to end torture as a matter of official policy and to move to close Guantanamo prison camp--well that makes me not wonder why I am standing idly by in the face of banal evil in a catastrophically ever-more immoral nation. It is not a far step from illegal detention and state torture to state murder, just a hop. Bush kept asserting that we don't torture, but he was lying. Obama says we don't torture, and so it is, we no longer do. So President Obama has pulled us back from the brink. The import of this can't be underestimated.

I heard Alberto Gonzalez on the radio today decrying Holder for calling waterboarding torture and saying that this kind…

buyer beware

With the economy in a free fall, the disaster striking American beekeepers and the honey industry might not be in the forefront of your mind, but it should be.

(I digress: There is something about honey that brings out the core self-amusing qualities of headline writers (these aren't necessarily admirable qualities).

I wrote a review of three new books on colony collapse disorder for the Virginian Pilot that was published Sunday. I can't link to it as they have rather unhelpfully not put it up on the web for reasons I don't understand. Why this paper hoards some of its content for the unreadable paper edition I don't know. Perhaps this is an indication why there have been zero (0) takers for the paper when it was recently on the sales block. Yup, all because they didn't post my book review.)

I think we were talking about bees and headlines. The headline for that review was "Plight of the Honeybee," which I liked I will admit.

A friend today sent me thi…
We are rapidly entering a world where seemingly everything gets captured and posted online. Philip K. Dick wasn't far off. But you already knew that.

I came across another video from Lark's birthday at Clifftop, this captured from another angle and cut into a montage of images from the festival. We sing happy birthday to Lark at 1:43 and then there is a snippet of the same tune that is in the West Virginia public television documentary.

Makes me wonder what else is out there...
It's been a while since I posted a picture of the lil Buddha. Now she's learned to climb on the couch, unveiling a whole new world of verticality.

And, yes, her hair has moved through an early period Dana Carvey-esque phase, through Rod Stewart, onto full-borne mullet.

we's famous

I just happened on this documentary made by West Virginia Public Television about the Clifftop festival (Appalachian String Band festival). Clifftop is the best week of the year without a doubt. There are many homemade videos of jams up on youtube to watch. I'm sorry to say that I didn't think this pro documentary really captures the festival at all, not its size, scale, diversity, depth, or overall magnificence. The pacing is a bit off. And weirdly it doesn't really capture so much of the music made there, though there are some nice bits with Lester McCumbers, for example, and a few others. Since you can't swing a dead cat without hitting an incredible jam at Clifftop it is kind of strange that the filmmakers didn't try some dead cat swinging, though maybe that is expecting a bit much. They seemed to stay on top of the hill rather than wander into the thickets below, but they did get to some of it at the end. Clifftop can't really be captured that way …
Several people have asked me why I haven't written about Obama's inaugural, but the plain answer is that I just haven't had a chance to sit down with the text of it. But I will...
My friend Justin Catanoso came to speak on campus last night about his new book about his cousin who was made a saint by the Catholic Church. The book is appropriately titled: My Cousin the Saint. It was a great talk and good fun to hang out with him and his wife (I met them both many years ago at an old time music festival in West Virginia and usually only see them there).

Justin is firing on all cylinders--there is a blog in Cincinnati (describing itself as "a blog celebrating the Catholic Church, primarily in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati", a description which falls well under the rubric of "know your audience") which named Justin Number 3 of the "top ten list of the most fascinating Catholics of 2008." Number one is the Pope. Number two is Nancy Pelosi. So number three ain't bad. I'm guessing the pope gets first place every year.
Here is Anita Bartholomew directly echoing what I wrote back in mid-December: end the stupid, costly, and ineffective drug war.

"With our economy going to pot, President-elect Obama has promised a “top-to-bottom audit to eliminate spending for programs that don’t work.” So, here’s a sane, simple proposal to save the country billions of dollars a year: end the war on marijuana users.

This failed and counter-productive program is an assault on people who pose virtually no threat to themselves or anyone else, certainly no more than that all-American "Joe Sixpack" revered in our recent presidential election.

Yet, getting caught with a few seeds or trace marijuana residue on a pipe is enough in some jurisdictions to trigger an arrest. Most who favor continuing the war assume that law enforcement focuses on sweeping up kingpins and members of cartels. But, here’s a sobering statistic. Of the 872,000 arrests in 2007 for marijuana-related offenses, almost 90 percent were for simp…
The inauguration traffic is projected to be so intense that they are flashing warnings here on the signs usually reserved for rush hour information--and we're three hours south of DC.
Being a partisan of the tamale, I've had big ambitions about making them for some time. But I've been warned. A student of mine, who is from El Paso, told me that it was simply impossible to make a tamale following a recipe. If I couldn't learn from my grandmother, forget it. (This would limit me to roast chicken, brisket, and chopped liver, so I sallied forth).

Other friends of mine who grew up watching their mothers or grandmothers make them warned me that it was going to be a long process and a lot of work. They weren't kidding about that.

A man can work up a powerful thirst making tamales. Fortunately, there is a Mexican remedy for that.

I was most recently reinvigorated to make tamales after we ventured to a supposedly famous tamale joint in the Mission in San Francisco at the end of December. This is a place making tamales since 1904. Good name (I don't know if TR ate there, but perhaps) and a cool sign...

...but the tamales were not good. The sign c…
I have brought a series of fascinating people to campus over the past couple of weeks, starting off with a really fine poet named Gregory Orr. I had happened across one of his collections by pure chance (The Caged Owl) and after reading it was really moved. I was glad to discover that he teaches just up the road at UVa. As you would expect, hearing the poems read is an entirely different experience.

But most of the people I brought to campus have been musicians--old time banjo players and fiddlers. I have other people coming in this week.

But so far the most interesting of them all has been Wayne Willis. No surprise there.

(Wayne, of course, being the subject of the film Skye and I have been making for the past 5 or 6 years, maybe longer...)

I asked Wayne to come and play some music (he is a great dobro player in the traditional style) and I asked him to display some of his inventions. Some of them are incredible, like the Dispenz-a-Cig, which he built at his mother's request to…
When I was in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago I was amused to see these Obama veladoras in a window. I never got around to posting it on Nunal since time has a been a bit short.

Turns out this is only the beginning. I had sorely underestimated the amount of stuff being peddled with Obama's face on it.

The New Republic has a photo essay of some of the choice items which is worth a look: Kitsch You Can Believe In

Now, this is a family blog, of course, but if an establishment organ (yes, pun intended) like the New Republic finds it appropriate to run a photo of this collectible, who are we to protest?

sign of the times: this is made in the USA.
Today I got the following announcement of this upcoming banjo and fiddle workshop in Norfolk (see below).

What struck me was the choice of venue. This is just three blocks away from where the Maury High School football player was murdered two days ago (headline: "'He'll always be a starter' for Maury" )

Psst--don't tell Ken Perlman and Alan Jabbour or all the hapless banjo players out there:


2-4PM 7:30PM
suggested donation of $20 for each event
430 W. 31ST STREET, NORFOLK, VA 23508
Parking in rear of church & across the street
please arrive a half hour early

Ken Perlman
"The Heifetz of the Banjo"
The Chronicle Herald (Halifax, Nova Scotia)
Superb instrumentalist, acclaimed teacher of instrumental skills,
gifted performer, award-winning folklorist, Ken Perlman is…
I missed this story but a friend of mine just sent it to me. Scientists have apparently discovered that cocaine has an effect on honeybees. It's true.

"The research, published in The Journal of Experimental Biology, advances the knowledge of reward systems in insects, and aims to “use the honeybee as a model to study the molecular basis of addiction,” said Gene E. Robinson, director of the neuroscience program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a co-author with Dr. Barron, and Ryszard Maleszka and Paul G. Helliwell at Australian National University.

The researchers looked at honeybees whose job is finding food — flying to flowers, discovering nectar, and if their discovery is important enough, doing a waggle dance on a special “dance floor” to help hive mates learn the location.

“Many times they don’t dance,” Professor Robinson said. “They only dance if the food is of sufficient quality and if they assess the colony needs the food.”

On cocaine the bees “dance…
I just got this announcement from the Stonewall Jackson Hotel in Staunton, Virginia. It is a nice old hotel.

"At last, some change you can believe in!
We are not talking politics here, but talking about saving some cash! As the inauguration of our 44th President is almost upon us, the Stonewall Jackson Hotel is putting a promotion together to mark this historic occasion by offering an exclusive rate to all our email subscribers of 44.00 per night.
• Simply stay two consecutive nights and pay $44.00 per evening.
• If two nights do not fit in your schedule, we can provide a one night visit for 88.00. Either way, you start off the year with your own bailout plan."

What would it mean to mark Obama's inauguration by staying at the Stonewall Jackson? Maybe I will wait to craft my response until Lee/Jackson/King Day.*

*for non-Virginians, that is the official name for "Robert E. Lee/Stonewall Jackson/Martin Luther King, Jr., Day," the day before the inauguration.